“And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12
A version of Presidents’ Day is one of two non-religious holidays our nation has observed since our founding. What began as an unofficial celebration of George Washington’s birthday is now a recognized holiday honoring the service and sacrifice of presidents past and present.
Most people see this day as a blip between Valentine’s Day and the march toward more exciting Spring holidays, or just an occasion for some red, white, and blue coloring sheets for children. But we know holidays are set into the rhythm of our lives to prompt us to pause, ponder, and pray.
We look back and remember the leaders of the past, their accomplishments, failures, and how their influences are still felt today. We look to current leaders to see how they are guiding our nation, and where we can pray for them.
Scripture instructs us to pray and intercede for those in authority – whether we support their policies, voted against their platform, or prefer their personality. Presidents’ Day reminds us to pray fervently for the wisdom of God to rest on our current and former presidents, as leaders with immense influence over our country and culture. These men served their nation in the highest office, sacrificing their wellbeing under the immense pressure of leading our country, and need our prayers.
By no means is a president a designated spiritual leader – the Body of Christ was given pastors, evangelists, and teachers for such purposes, as the Apostle Paul described in Ephesians, and Christ directed the disciples to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s” to explain the differing responsibilities of participating in earthly governing systems and devoting spiritual allegiance to God.
However, it is a wonderful gift that, since 1952, our nation’s laws have appointed our president, the highest recognized leader in our nation, to guide our nation toward a position of prayer at least once a year. They are not a pastor, priest, or spiritual authority, but it is a moment to rejoice when the earthly leadership of a president submits to the power and might of our Almighty God in prayer. These leaders are leading the nation toward the Lord, and truly, there is no better direction that toward God!
Join me to ponder these quotes on prayer, taken from the writings and National Day of Prayer proclamations from four previous presidents:
“I call on Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace and protection for this land we love.”
“In times of trial, we ask God for wisdom, courage, direction, and comfort.”
“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God…”
“We remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation.”
Each quote was penned in the midst of a nation walking through trial: an economic crisis, a war, a pandemic, and in the months following an attack on our nation. Without the names attached, it’s almost impossible to know who of our 46 past presidents wrote which sentence. What a joy! Knowing that in a moment of crisis and need, a leader pointed our people toward prayer.
The quotes, in order, are from Barack Obama in 2009, George W. Bush in 2002, Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and Joseph Biden in 2021. Even if for just one moment, these men used their leadership and influence to point our nation to God in prayer. When was the last time I did the same?
My first reaction to God prompting me to lead someone toward prayer is, Lord, I am not qualified! Like our presidents, I am not a pastor. Like most presidents in history, I don’t have any advanced educational degrees. I have not attended seminary - I am not even a Bible study or small group leader in my church. But the Lord still calls me to use what little influence I might have, not to lead prayer as someone with spiritual authority, but to lead the position of prayer, faithfully pointing others toward the throne room of heaven, where we make our praises and requests known to God.
I see God prompting me to live this out in several situations:
When a friend calls me to tell me about her hard day at work, I am called to obediently follow the Spirit’s prompting to pray for them over the phone.
When I make lunch to have with my elderly grandmother, I am called to honor her leading us into prayer over our meal.
When my spouse and I see trouble among our friends, I am called to remind both of us to pause and pray together over the situation.
Will you take a moment and pray with me, for the influence of presidents, and for the influence the Lord has given you in your life?
Lord, You have appointed our leaders, and I pray that you would pour out your wisdom on our presidents, past and present. Give them words to speak that honor You, and bring wise, godly counsel into their lives to speak Your truth. Make my heart tender towards my elected officials, to pray for them through separation from their families, for the weight of decision-making, and wielding their influence in a way that honors You. In the same way, work in my heart to recognize the position of my own life. Teach me to use whatever limited influence I have to lead those around me toward prayer, modeling what it looks like to seek Your face in all situations. In Jesus name, Amen.
Peace and blessings,